To our readers: We at Harris Publications and PersonalDefenseWorld wish you and yours a happy and relaxing Memorial Day 2013. To America’s brave servicemen and women, past and present, we express our profound, unstinting gratitude. At Harris, we write a great deal about exercising our right to self-defense. On this Memorial Day weekend—and, frankly, everyday—let’s take a moment to recognize the valiant warriors who over the course of American history, from 1776 to the present day, have fought and died to uphold, to self-defend, that bedrock right. By virtue of their sacrifices, the American way of life—our mighty experiment in individual liberty—persists. We thank them; and we vow, on this holiday and every day after, to never take their heroism for granted.

After the American Civil War, a day was set aside to honor soldiers both in the Union blue and Confederate grey who had fought and died in our nation’s most costly conflict—one that forever united our Republic. It was later called Memorial Day, and was extended to honor not only the approximately 750,000 Americans killed at Bull Run, Vicksburg, Gettysburg and countless other campaigns, battles and skirmishes in the War Between the States, but all Americans who have died while in the armed forces of the United States.

As a child in Miami, my family liked to celebrate the holiday with a cookout at Crandon Park beach on Key Biscayne. My Dad flew Clippers for Pan Am and held a U.S. Navy Commission during WWII. He reluctantly talked about his duties, which put him frequently in combat zones—one time being chased and fired upon by German night fighters while bringing captured Nazi equipment back from North Africa to the States for evaluation by American intelligence and ordnance personnel. He survived, but friends on other flights did not. He laughed as he told about how the only way they were able to get a freshly captured Afrika Korps artillery piece into his aircraft was to actually cut a hole in the tail for the barrel to get it on board! My Mom’s first husband was a tanker for Patton and was KIA, but not before liberating some concentration camps, sending her a pistol taken off a guard that he personally dispatched.

While we enjoyed the hot dogs, warm sand and the coconut palms, my parents made sure I understood that Memorial Day, was for the ones that didn’t make it home from where American warfighters fought and died to preserve our freedom. Nowadays the holiday is celebrated by decoration of veterans’ graves with American flags, each carefully placed above our interred warriors and public events to show our appreciation, that as a nation, we recognize our freedom was not free and that bill was paid by hundreds of thousands of men and women who put honor and service ahead of personal safety.

We at Harris Tactical Group and PersonalDefenseWorld wish everybody a great Memorial Day 2013. We recognize that personal defense is a right protected by the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and exemplified by the Americans who died in the defense of our country and our way of life. By extension, their sacrifice to ensure we have the ability to enjoy those rights should be respected and not wasted by allowing a modification, restriction or even elimination of those basic, and clearly worded directions by our founding fathers that keep us all strong and free. This great and unique country as envisioned by Washington, Jefferson and Adams—guided by our Constitution and Bill of Rights—has been defended to the death by Americans buried in countless places that include Arlington National Cemetery, to the impeccable fields of crosses overlooking the beaches of Normandy, to the remains recently found of over a dozen Marines who died in one of the first battles in the Pacific involving American troops during the early months of WWII on Makin Island.

The August 1942 Makin Island raid struck at the seemingly invincible Japanese Empire, who up to that time had enjoyed success after success. The raid destroyed a Japanese garrison and even two Japanese flying boats that were trying to reinforce the island. During the battle, nineteen Marine Raiders were killed and left to be buried by the local natives. Fifty eight years later, the Marines were located, mostly due to an islander who as a fourteen year old boy at the time watched his fellow islanders lovingly inter the Raiders. The recovery team was amazed to find that each Marine was laid to rest with great care, each wearing their steel pots and holding their rifles. The Marines were returned to the States escorted and honored by fellow Marines until they were once again reunited with their families.

When those Marines died, the tide had not been turned and victory was far from certain as we had yet to go on the full offensive. However their raid clearly showed that the enemy could be beaten on their ground in close combat, completely dispelling their myth of invincibility and superiority. They fought and died, never knowing that they led the way and blazed the road to victory. They, like all the other Marines, soldiers, sailors, guardsmen and airmen who gave their lives, deserve a moment of your time to say thanks, as I did as a child with a hot dog in my hand as I watched with pride as my Mom and Dad’s far-away eyes filled with tears while they thought back to the Americans who never made it home… the husbands, wives, buddies and sons who gave all to give us our days at the beach under the Stars and Stripes.

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